Decision Making

February 27th, 2014 by James Goudie KC

As Cranston J observed at the outset of his Judgment in Bishops Stortford Civic Federation v East Hertfordshire District Council [2014] EWHC 348 (Admin) the case was a judicial review that raised some “important issues” about the “lawful operation of local government and the role of the Courts”.  The main issue arose out of the intervention by Councillor Tindale at a (Planning) Committee Meeting.

Cranston J set out the following principles:-

  1. Unless there is an express provision in the Council’s Constitution or other documents preventing attendance, any Councillor can, with the Committee’s permission, in principle attend and address it: para 30;
  2. There are, however, limits, as where the Councillor has a disqualifying interest, but participation in the development of policies and proposals should not normally exclude from decision making Meetings: para 31;
  3. Councillor Tindale’s motives were irrelevant in law: para 33;
  4. As regards whether Councillor Tindale’s address had “polluted the well”, a detailed analysis of what Members said is neither necessary nor appropriate: “the cut and thrust of political debate is not conducive to refined textual analysis”: para 37;
  5. In the case of a collective decision, one has to consider the “general tenor of the discussion” rather than the individual views of Committee Members, “let alone the precise terminology used”: para 39;
  6. “The taking of statements when councillors are asked to explain their voting is especially to be deplored”: Prudence is the sensible judicial approach in this context”: para 41.

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